Freshmen athletes adapt to restricted sports season

Hannah Katzke and Audrey Moussazadeh

Ninth graders are facing the challenge of forming relationships with their teammates and adapting to their Upper Division (UD) winter sports teams over Zoom. 

The teams had approximately two weeks of in-person practices before the closure of the school forced all activities to shift completely online.

Mira Bansal (9), a member of the Girls’ Varsity Squash team, said her team has not been able to form the same close-knit relationships she had grown accustomed to on Middle Division (MD) teams because of COVID-19 protocols. To combat the difficulties presented, members of the squash team randomly pair up in practice, which gives them the opportunity to learn more about each other, she said.

However, for Varsity Ski team member Elise Kang (9), the longer practices in the UD have allowed her to form closer relationships with her teammates, she said. When she joined the team, Kang presumed that the team’s dynamic would be intense, but she has found the opposite to be true of her friendly, and motivating teammates, she said.

Even though the new protocols have limited the team’s interactions, they have retained a sense of community and team spirit through fun activities during practice, Heidi Li (9), a member of the Girls’ Track Team, said. 

Jojo Mignone (9), who was on the MD swim team, has been making the adjustment to the Girls’ Varsity Swim team. It has been more challenging to adjust to the larger time commitment that comes with the UD team and shift quickly between her club meetings and her swim practices, she said. 

Despite the new change in protocols, Mignone has been able to seek guidance and get to know the upperclassmen on her team, she said. “The older girls have made an effort to help freshmen get adjusted and in general have been extremely nice and understanding.” 

Ella Shaham, (9) another member of the Girls’ Varsity Swim team, was able to introduce herself and meet other members of the team in the locker rooms while practices were still in person, she said.

Unlike the Girls’ Varsity Swim team, the Boys’ Varsity Basketball team has been divided into smaller grade-level groups. Because of the team’s rigid COVID-19 restrictions, Clark Turchin (9) has not been able to form any relationships with the older students on the team, he said.

Like Turchin, Bansal has felt a shift in her team’s dynamic because of the COVID-19 safety restrictions. Without  physical interactions such as high fives, it has definitely been more difficult to form new relationships this year, she said. 

Online practices have provided the Girls’ Varsity Swim team with a new opportunity to strengthen their relationships through the team’s conversation on gratitude, led by Coach Thatcher Woodley, and through their senior-led team activities, Shaham said.  

While improving will be difficult for Shaham since she cannot swim during HM Online 2.0,  she will view online practices as a way to focus on different aspects of her sport. “It could be advantageous to shift our focus to a less tangible aspect of swimming” she said. “In-person, we focus so much on technique and speed and stamina, but this allows us to focus on the mindsets that we can use to better ourselves as athletes.”